It's round two of The Innovators brackets! (Get started voting NOW!) Our 16 chefs have been narrowed down to eight, and it's getting hot in herrrre. It is crucial—crucial, I say!—that you don't forget that there is a GRAND PRIZE involved in all this cheffy brouhaha. And you can enter to win said grand prize once a day. Which grand prize is that? Why, it's a trip for two to the restaurant of the final chef left standing at the end of all this carnage. Including airfare and hotel! Sweet. Vote!
Dominique Crenn: She grew up in a politically involved, artistically leaning family in France—her mother cooked; her father took her out to fine French restaurants. She got a business degree and came to the U.S. in 1988 with a hankering to cook, appearing in Jeremiah Tower's kitchen at Stars and demanding a job. He put her on the line; she learned on the job, and on subsequent jobs in San Francisco restaurants. In 1997 she moved to Jakarta, Indonesia, where her stint as executive chef at the Jakarta Intercontinental coincided with a financial crisis and a revolution. With the gig cut short, she returned to relatively calm California, first in Manhattan Beach and then back to San Francisco, where she took the helm at Luce in the Intercontinental Hotel and won a Michelin star. After the requisite battle on Iron Chef (she trounced Michael Symon), she opened Atelier Crenn in early 2011. Her food is modernist cooking with soul—she likes to talk about memories and poetry and other things that make food critics a little uncomfortable with the sheer Frenchness of it all.
Michael Voltaggio: He makes brioche in a microwave. He left a job as chef de cuisine at José Andrés's the Bazaar to compete on Top Chef (he won the title in 2009; Tom Colicchio told Los Angeles Magazine: "Out of all the cooks that have come through the show, Michael is the most talented—both from a sensibility and technical standpoint"), and he blogs, with his brother Bryan, at Voltaggiobrothers.com. Upon feasting on his octopus over "buttered popcorn" purée and his artisanal "Dippin' Dots" at the Langham in Pasadena, where Voltaggio worked until last summer, our editors were compelled to ask: Is Michael Voltaggio the most innovative chef in Los Angeles? He is soon to open his own restaurant in LA, called ink.